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Sunday, June 19, 2011

My Bengal of Gold

Just in case you were wondering, the title is from the famous song by Tagore "Aamar Shonar Bangla". Aside from being the national anthem of Bangladesh, the song is one of the better ones out there encapsulating the true beauty of Bengal.

Representing the branding/communications fraternity of Bangladesh, it gives me no pleasure knowing we have achieved almost "zero growth" in increasing the value of "Brand Bangladesh". While different bodies have been mobilized and some been rather proactive (i.e. Bangladesh Brand Forum) to make amends, the end-results are yet to materialize (or far from being sufficient). The government on its part, has done little to make any sizable impact except coining words like "Digital Bangladesh" (which is more fallacy than facts) as well as incorporating "Beautiful Bangladesh" (a stop-gap measure that none seem to approve of). The BPC (Bangladesh Parjatan Corporation) has been a playing catch-up ever since its inception. Which makes it not surprising that even after forty years of being an independent nation, we lack a proper tourism infrastructure. Albeit there has been sporadic moves from the private parties (some mutually beneficial, whereas some purely commercial), tourism in general is considered a public sector undertaking and yet the government has gone underground on it from the beginning.

I fell in love with Kerala only after "Gods own country" showed me how pristine and natural it was and I can only recall Malaysia as the "Truly Asia" country... but I can never associate Bangladesh with such a one-liner in an instance. Of course the proverbial greenery of Bangladesh (which is supposed to depict the green countryside) exists, but really! how many of us would endorse that with a sane mind and hand on our heart? I believe, the numbers are in hundreds if not 10's...

The point wasn't about how far behind we are (which is true for most advancements, actually) but to appreciate what measures we have taken to better our image globally. Sadly, not too many enterprising spirits (persons or companies) have actually brought about any memorable changes to-date! Be it in terms of image building (may be Grameen Bank and Dr. Yunus, but even that's a taboo now) or actual facilitating (name one resort/place that is truly unique to Bangladesh? Just one...) we have failed over and over again to make any great improvements to the sorry state of tourism in Bangladesh.

But as always (just like any fiction or inspirational true events) there is HOPE! Hope in the form of new media (social media, web marketing). While we (the nation, the government, the ones running it and the people) are stressed to feed our poor, implement ADP (Annual Development Plans) or even keeping inflation in check some evangelist souls (companies as well) have been making the most of digital to promote "Brand Bangladesh". Although the following mentions aren't the latest or greatest, they make way for (what I believe) the beginning of a lot of new beginnings for our Bangladesh!!!

First up is a video made by a student from Dhaka University (which I'm led to believe was developed out on a whim) that created a new kind of buzz (promoting Bangladesh's image to the world) and gained popularity through YouTube and Facebook mostly...

Developed by ZANALA Bangladesh, the next one has been (again) one of the most circulated videos about Bangladesh. It was intended as a part a campaign that promoted Bangladesh at an international conference in Canada. Funded by IDLC Bangladesh Ltd., this video even went on to win a special award for "Nation Branding" at Commward 2009. I was lucky to be at the Gala cheering for IDLC and ZANALA for a very well deserved prize...

The final mention, and perhaps the best of the lot (in terms of quality, story-telling and a genuine communication) is "The School of Life" made by GREY Dhaka for the Beautiful Bangladesh campaign and was aired during the opening ceremony of (another milestone for Bangladesh) ICC Cricket World Cup 2011 in Dhaka. Not only did it make a dent in everyone's way of thinking (regarding Bangladesh) it was what I would call, a genuine effort to put an image to "Brand Bangladesh"... I loved how the film ends with a call of action (admission going on...) would genuinely endorse it as a must-watch for anyone seeking to get an idea about Bangladesh!

Obviously none of the above make it to the league of a full-fledged campaign like Incredible !ndia, but its a start! And we all can (at least in our own ways) come together to help these trailers make the rest (of the world) fall in love with the movie (hopefully a planned and comprehensive country branding effort)...

A special thanks to Views On Tourism. We should all be thankful to the ones like Majbritt Thomsen for their initiatives! I for one got inspired to write this from a Ms. Marjana Shammi's blog.